"The Light shall bring victory!" my priest declares, and my heart swells with anticipation as I examine the cards I have been dealt. The cry comes from Blizzard's Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft and is a link to a universe I have followed for nearly half my life. It reminds me that I am not playing just any card game, but a card game connected to one of gaming's most storied franchises.
It was the familiar connection to World of Warcraft which spurred my initial curiosity in Hearthstone. Despite possessing little experience in the card game genre, I hoped that the knowledge gained from countless hours in World of Warcraft would find use again in Hearthstone.
Much to my delight, Hearthstone's class-themed decks feature not only recognisable characters, but familiar class-specific talents to go with them. All World of Warcraft classes (sans the Death Knight and Monk) are present in Hearthstone as choices around which to model my deck's theme. From Anduin the priest's healing skill to Garrosh the warrior's armor buff, each class possesses unique abilities and minions which were mostly present in the Warcraft games. Indeed, the all-too-familiar sound of the priest's lesser heal was enough to evoke fond memories of a summer lost to questing in Azeroth.
Surprisingly, it was my experiences in World of Warcraft that made it easy to determine which deck themes suited me best. Sticking with the familiar, I begun by crafting decks using classes I was well-versed in utilising; the priest and the paladin. How much could the abilities of these World of Warcraft classes' transfer to a game that has its move sets comprised entirely of cards? According to Blizzard, a lot.
As in World of Warcraft, the priest class in Hearthstone has access to the ability to heal himself and allies. Playing the priest, my focus was to play defensively by managing health points and buffing minions. The healing-focused play style I adopted resonated with my experiences in World of Warcraft, where I applied the same priest skills to ensure the survival of myself and my comrades. Sure, hitting a key to cast the area-of-effect spell Holy Nova in World of Warcraft was not exactly the same as throwing down a Holy Nova card in Hearthstone, but the effects of the spell are almost identical in both games.
Healing wasn't the only option available to priests in World of Warcraft however, and the same rings true for the priest class in Hearthstone. The option to build a Shadow deck which focuses on damage-dealing parallels the ability of the same name in World of Warcraft. Staying true to Warcraft lore, assuming Shadowform in Hearthstone sacrifices healing abilities for damage-dealing skills.
Access to an array of healing spells compelled me to craft a deck of minions who would benefit the most from my healing- and buffing- focused playstyle, leading to battles which felt almost akin to taking part in a World of Warcraft dungeon raid. My priest would hide behind minions with taunt, heal the injured minions, and buff the attacking minions as necessary. In short, I had adopted the role as healer so that I could help achieve the greater goal of defeating the enemy.
It was the paladin class in which I found a change of pace. Like his World of Warcraft counterpart, the paladin in Hearthstone has access to a variety of class-specific heal and buff cards. Blizzard has even reproduced the infamous paladin skill Divine Shield in Hearthstone; an ability which grants temporary invulnerability to a target.
The ability to play the paladin as an all-rounder was what originally attracted me to the class in World of Warcraft, and the same options ring true in Hearthstone. In World of Warcraft I favoured having the ability to heal my character, but I also enjoyed the capability to dish out heavy damage. By possessing the ability to heal, buff minions or equip weapons to attack directly, Hearthstone's paladin felt suited to my flexible approach to the game.
Although the paladin class possesses a number of new skills exclusive to Hearthstone, its playstyle still managed to strike a familiar chord with the World of Warcraft player in me. As a paladin I was able to adopt the tactic of prolonging my life in matches and disrupting my opponents' attacks.
Strip away the coat of Warcraft paint, and Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft is a card game which eases in first-timers and offers a number of different playstyles through the choice of classes. Although World of Warcraft and Hearthstone share few gameplay mechanics, Blizzard's efforts to recreate classes and skills in the latter result in card-themed battles which exude a familiarity that fans of the Warcraft franchise can easily identify with.
Admittedly, I did experience palpitations upon seeing Anduin Wrynn as a young adult. I will always remember him as the pint-size boy-king of Stormwind, manipulated by Onyxia in human form. It was these small touches reflecting the story progression in the Warcraft universe that served as a nice reminder of where my love for the series all began.